Crowley under fire from Nevada State Bar
October 31, 2013
Fallon attorney Martin Crowley is under fire from the State Bar of Nevada.
According to a complaint filed on Sept. 27 by Reno attorney William C. Jeanney, Crowley is suspected of practicing law without a license. Jeanney wrote a letter of complaint to the Nevada Bar Counsel accusing Crowley of misconduct.
Crowley's license was suspended July 22 by the Nevada Supreme Court after justices said he misrepresented a client in an estate matter.
He could be charged criminally for unlawful practice of law. According to state law, "First offense within the immediate preceding seven years is a misdemeanor."
Patrick King, assistant Bar Counsel, filed a motion for order to show cause against Crowley after Jeanney discovered a letter sent to an insurance agency stemming from a case that involved an auto accident. King's motion asks why Crowley should not be held in contempt of court.
Numerous attempts to make contact with Crowley have been unsuccessful.
Jeanney represented Senicia Burke, who sued Crowley and was awarded $36,150 in a civil trial on June 27, 2012. Burke filed the suit in 2009 in the Tenth Judicial District Court after Crowley did not perform services or reimburse her $650 (Crowley's original fee) as required by an arbitration order.
Crowley appealed the ruling on Nov. 28, 2012, and the case is pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.
The accident, meanwhile, occurred on Dec. 7, 2012. Anne Tyler was rear-ended by Melissa Wortham at the intersection of Taylor Street and Williams Avenue, according to court records.
According to court documents, Crowley was retained by Tyler and sent a letter to Progessive Insurance on Sept. 10, 2013, informing the company he was "prepared to submit our demand for settlement at this time." The letter also contains the facts, injuries and requests $45,000 in damages to be settled in 14 days. The letter lists Tyler's medical cost at $20,363.41.
King's motion, meanwhile, states, "The State Bar believes that this court should impose a significant penalty in the case to discourage Crowley and other suspended attorneys from the lucrative unauthorized practice of law."
According to an affidavit by Jeanney, he was made aware of Crowley's suspected legal workings 13 days later by Nikki Coverston, an employee of Jeanney and the mother of one of the women involved in the collision with Tyler.
Coverston confirmed to Jeanney her daughter's insurance (Progressive) had been contacted by Crowley and his firm, according to the affidavit.
Crowley was suspended after a jury in a civil trial found he had an improper business relationship with Floyd Edgemon commencing in 2006.
Crowley appealed the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court, but the court upheld the decision from the Tenth Judicial District Court. Crowley suspension is for six months and one day.
According to Nevada Supreme Court documents, Edgemon retained Crowley's law firm American Legal Services regarding a probate matter. Edgemon's longtime partner, Althea Cottam, died leaving a house titled in her name.
Edgemon told Crowley the property was in foreclosure with a trustee's sale nearing. Crowley then offered assistance from Moroni Corporate Investments International, Inc. (MCI), which Crowley and his brother, Jim Crowley, are the lone shareholders.
Martin Crowley drew up paperwork so MCI could bring the loan current and take over mortgage payments. Acting as an attorney for Edgemon and MCI, Crowley failed to inform Edgemon he should have an independent attorney review the agreement before signing, court records show. Edgemon, according to the Supreme Court, had no knowledge of Crowley's association with MCI.
The agreement considered a sale of the home with the estate with MCI sharing the proceeds. In addition, "the agreement provided that any payments made by MCI would constitute a claim against the estate," according to court documents.
MCI made payments until the insurance lapsed, leaving the mortgage company to raise the payments to cover its cost. After the rate was raised, MCI stopped making payments.
Court records show the house went into foreclosure and entered a trustee's sale, where Crowley bid on the property on the behalf of MCI, which had the only bid and won the residence.
Months later, MCI began the eviction process to remove Edgemon from the property. He retained new counsel and filed a suit for breach of fiduciary duty and other claims.
Edgemon was awarded $20,873.19 in damages on Oct. 31, 2012, according to court documents.
As part of the suspension, Crowley was required to file an affidavit of compliance with the court.
The initial recommendation by the state bar, however, asked for a one-year suspension. The Supreme Court, though, determined the six months and one day was applicable in Crowley's case, court records show.
According to a letter from Assistant Bar Counsel Janeen Isaacson dated Aug. 21, she had not received the affidavit.
Phil Pattee, assistant Bar Counsel, said a six-month, one-day suspension requires an attorney to apply for reinstatement and appear at a hearing to determine if a license will be reinstated.
As for violating a suspension order, Pattee said criminal charges are "very rare" and the State Bar of Nevada could seek further sanctions or suspension to the attorney in question.
Crowley, meanwhile, is eligible for reinstatement on Jan. 23, 2014, although that date may be voided due to the new allegations.
According to the suspension order, Crowley cannot practice law, profit from the practice of law, accept new cases, retainer fees or split fees with licensed attorney's. He can, however, accept employment from a law firm as a non-lawyer staff member but must be paid according to the Rule of Professional Conduct.
Crowley is also required to notify his clients of his suspension, which allows clients 30 days to find a new attorney, according to the letter.
"If clients cannot find a new attorney in that time frame, the attorney (Crowley) can seek a withdrawal," Isaacson's letter states. "Mr. Crowley cannot remain counsel of record for any of those clients."
In addition to those claims, Isaacson also alleges Crowley's secretary, Nicole Raymond, is listed as the name on a revised Certificate of Fictitious Name (or business license) for American Legal Services. It is prohibited for a non-lawyer to own or control a legal practice.
"Should she remain in this position, the State Bar will have no choice but to pursue an injunction to cease the legal operations of American Legal Services," Isaacson's letter said.
Although the LVN could not connect with Crowley, the newspaper would still like to give him the opportunity to tell his side of the story.